Archive

November 5th, 2016

Director J. Edgar Comey

    It took 44 years after the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972 for the FBI to restore its reputation for honesty and impartiality. It took Director James Comey two days to destroy it.

    Because of his actions this week, Comey will be remembered as the worst FBI director since Hoover, with one major difference. Back then, Hoover threatened politicians with the existence of secret photos. Today, Comey intimidates politicians with the existence of secret emails. The result's the same.

    Even his critics admit that Comey earned a great reputation as a straight shooter in the Justice Department while serving as deputy attorney general under President George W. Bush, dramatically blocking an effort by the White House to get Attorney General Ashcroft to authorize NSA's massive domestic surveillance program. And, until this week, his reputation for honesty and independence prevailed at the FBI.

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Cubs, Nerds and ‘True Baseball’

    Here’s a question about last night’s exhilarating, stomach-churning, 10-inning seventh game of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians: Was it “true baseball”?

    Early in 2015, Dave Stewart, the former major-league pitcher who had recently become the general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, made a crack about data-friendly teams (like the Cubs and Indians). Stewart suggested that free agents might prefer to sign with Arizona, because they would see it “as a true baseball team versus some of the other teams out here that are geared more toward analytics and those type of things.”

    It was not an isolated remark. Many people around baseball have reacted to the so-called “Moneyball” revolution, in which people use data to analyze the game, by saying its version of baseball lacks soul. It’s nerds crunching numbers, rather than loving the game.

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Campus PC culture is so rampant that NYU is paying to silence me

    I'm not a conservative, or an alt-righter. I find Donald Trump repugnant. But over the last couple of weeks, I've become a campus pariah to some (and a hero, perhaps, to a few) in my nontenured NYU faculty job, thanks to the humorless, Social Justice Warrior-brand of campus culture run amok and a misunderstanding about a Twitter account. Enmeshed in a conspiracy - thinly disguised as sympathy - of my colleagues' design, I've lost my academic freedom and I potentially stand to lose my appointment.

    Last month, NYU's senior vice president of student affairs, Marc Wais, sent an email to the campus community to announce that an on-campus appearance by right-wing Internet provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos had been canceled by the administration. I believe universities should debate bad ideas, not ban them, and I vocally opposed this development.

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Walling Them Out, or Walling Us In?

    Evading security cameras in the remote expanse along the U.S. border, three Guatemalans waited till dusk to slip illicitly into our country.

    This is the stuff of Donald Trump nightmares — and if he were to witness such a scene, we can only imagine the furious rants that would follow.

    But Trump will never see this scene or even know about it, because he’s facing south, fulminating against Mexicans and assuring his faithful followers that he’ll stop illegal entry into the U.S. by building a “beautiful, impenetrable wall” across our 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

    Meanwhile, the scene described took place way up north, where rural Vermont connects to Canada. As the New York Times recently reported, “This area is a haven for smugglers and cross-border criminal organizations.”

    With so many of our nation’s political and security officials obsessed with the southern border, more and more criminal action — including the smuggling of people, drugs, and weapons — has plagued our 5,500-mile Canadian border, the longest in the world between two countries.

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The revolt against political correctness has backfired

    It's true that Donald Trump's support has little to do with policies. It's not true, however, that those who support him have no rational or cogent reasons for their preference. They are misguided, in my view, but they aren't stupid, and we flatter ourselves by assuming their preference for Trump is evidence merely of economic forces they don't understand.

    If the Trump supporters I've met and know are a fair representation of their outlook, what binds them together is a deep hatred for political correctness. No groundbreaking analysis there: Trump has railed about political correctness many times, and of course he relishes expressing himself in ways that can reasonably be called politically incorrect. He may be a bigot and a scoundrel, the thinking seems to be, but the one thing he isn't is politically correct. I don't dismiss that view. PC culture has been the source of jokes and satire for 25 years or more, but it's no less real for that. Trump's supporters aren't wrong to hate it.

    But what is it, exactly?

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Republican Candidates, Admit It’s Hillary You’re Voting For

    Look, you need a rest. Let’s talk about the Senate races.

    If Hillary Clinton wins — and if she doesn’t, the Senate will be the least of our problems — Democrats need to pick up four seats to gain control. Otherwise, Clinton will have trouble getting anything through Congress, even her most basic appointees. She’ll be holding Cabinet meetings with people from the temp staffing agency.

    The single most interesting sidelight in the Senate fights is watching embattled swing state Republicans trying to avoid revealing who they support for president of the United States.

    We’re seeing some weird dances. Truly, the mating peacock spider has nothing on some Republicans who are trying to balance their need to appease the base with their deep-down understanding that Donald Trump would be a disaster for the country.

    “I don’t think my constituents care that much how one person is going to vote,” said Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania when he was asked the obvious question at a recent debate.

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Now James Comey's big mess is featured in a Donald Trump political ad

    Donald Trump has run what is easily the most dishonest presidential campaign of our lifetimes. The Washington Post fact-checking team's most up-to-date effort to track the lies told by Trump and Hillary Clinton documents that Trump has told nearly 60 of the most egregious of falsehoods -- vastly dwarfing the number from Clinton -- and on top of that, he's also indulged in over 20 more very serious episodes of dissembling.

    Yet in spite of this, Wednesday's Post tracking poll finds that Trump holds an edge of eight points over Clinton on the question of which candidate is viewed as the more honest and trustworthy one, with likely voters picking Trump by 46-38. Tellingly, this does not reflect an increase in perceptions of Trump's honesty, but rather, a drop in the percentage of those who see Clinton as the more honest one: In September, the two were tied on this question.

    And the poll (which finds the race dead even) also finds that this drop in perceptions of her honesty is driven primarily by a slide among independents and Democrats:

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I know what it's like when law enforcement intervenes in an election. It happened to me.

    Anyone who has ever been a candidate will tell you that politics is a rough-and-tumble business. Cheap shots, low blows and worse are to be expected. Good campaigns prepare responses and deflections. What campaigns do not prepare for, however, are precipitate broadsides from law enforcement.

    That's what happened to Hillary Clinton last week. The same thing happened to me, too.

    In March 2014, one week before the beginning of early voting in the District of Columbia's Democratic primary, then-U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen dropped a bombshell on my mayoral reelection campaign. He brought the kingpin of a political crime operation into court, announced that he'd struck a plea deal -- and at an ensuing news conference asserted, for all intents and purposes, that I was a co-conspirator and would soon be indicted.

    The media and my primary opponent pounced. The circuslike atmosphere that followed dominated every news cycle until the polls closed April 1. Muriel Bowser had beaten me for the nomination.

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Give more adolescents the right to vote

    I've been advocating a lower voting age for some time, but it always seemed a theoretical exercise. Residents of San Francisco on Tuesday have a chance to make it a reality if they support Proposition F, which would lower the voting age for local elections to 16.

    It has a good chance of passing: The only recent poll shows that a slim plurality favor the measure.

    San Francisco would be the third U.S. city to lower the voting age to 16, after two Maryland suburbs, Takoma Park and Hyattsville, took the plunge in 2013 and 2015, respectively. As the first large city to take this step, San Francisco would encourage others to consider following.

    It's even possible to imagine a full state going along, meaning that 16-year-olds could vote in national elections, too, since states are in charge of the electoral system. The 26th Amendment to the Constitution only says that the minimum voting age cannot be set higher than 18; governments are free to go lower than that.

    They should.

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Comey's colossal blunder

    Sometimes, the best of intentions lead to calamity. That is the case in FBI Director James Comey's unfortunate report to Congress that another trove of discovered emails might -- just might -- have some bearing on Hillary Clinton's use of her private server as secretary of state in the first Obama presidential term.

    In alerting not only the congressional investigative committees but also the American public only days before the 2016 presidential election, Comey has unleashed a political hornet's nest that could affect the outcome.

    His action has triggered outrage from Clinton and her campaign and reinforced rival Donald Trump's allegations of a rigged election process. It all happens without an iota of factual evidence that the new batch of emails are relevant to Clinton's tenure at the State Department or thereafter.

    At a minimum, Comey has sidestepped a longstanding Justice Department policy against commenting on any ongoing investigation. He has defended doing so on grounds he considered himself obliged to clarify the situation after having earlier ruled that the investigation was complete.

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